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The Last Samurai


Tom Cruise is a civil war hero who gets hired by the Japanese government to train their army to put down a Samurai uprising. Kidnapped in a battle, he learns about the Samurai culture in their village.

What I Thought

Disclaimer: I don't like Tom Cruise, never did. So my review will be colored with that bias.

The bad (NOTE: Some slight spoilers)

The storyline is simplistic and a little strange for today's world. After all, Cruise "goes native", switches sides, and joins a terrorist organization that is fighting the Japanese and (by extension) American governments. So it's hard to be sympathetic to what really amounts to traitor actions.

The movie resorts to clichés, and although I'm sure they weren't meant to be offensive, I'm still offended (at least on paper). So you have the cliché accents and phrases, the tea ceremony, the whole Samurai=discipline=honor=perfection bit, the Buddhist temple, etc. Obviously, I'm not offended by these images per se, it's that these are the same standard images that you see in EVERY movie made about traditional Japanese elements. Anyone remember the Karate Kid 2? There you go. Anyone else had this reaction?

Cruise is stilted, amateurish, and basically plays himself. Guess that's not a "bad" thing because he could actually be trying to "act", which is worse.

And the plot holes. Oy. OK, so Cruise is the ONLY guy out of about 2 thousand who survives a battle? And how DOES a proven traitor who kills an American general get access to the Emperor of Japan?? Huh?

No way he can learn fluent Japanese in 3 months. No way.

Finally, this movie is supposed to be about a man who is haunted by his Civil War past and what he's seen. So he becomes a slobbering drunk. The village cures him of all this, so what does he do once he gets back from the village? Get slobbering drunk. I mean, sure AA wasn't exactly around back then, but falling into self destructive behavior again is just plain stupid.

The good:

Beautiful scenery, beautiful costumes, beautiful weapons, beautiful sword fights.

An amazing performance by Ken Watanabe who plays the Samurai leader.

The bottom line:

Despite its drawbacks, I very much enjoyed this movie (you thought I wasn't gonna give it 2 thumbs up, didn't you?). The good things were THAT good, the battle scenes were believable and the sword choreography was awesome. I'm expecting Oscars for costumes and stuff. OK, I'm not, but it'll be a contender. Return of the King will actually win, of course. :)


All photos and text copyright Ryszard Kilarski, unless otherwise noted. Clip art, drawings, paintings are either free domain or copyrighted by the artists.